Why, exactly, does Sammy quit his job in "A&P"?

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Sammy's motives for leaving his job at A&P are not entirely clear, even to him. The reason he gives to Lengel, the manager, is his discomfort at seeing the girls humiliated for coming into the store wearing swimming costumes. He makes the decision quickly because he hopes the girls will...

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Sammy's motives for leaving his job at A&P are not entirely clear, even to him. The reason he gives to Lengel, the manager, is his discomfort at seeing the girls humiliated for coming into the store wearing swimming costumes. He makes the decision quickly because he hopes the girls will notice before they leave and regard him as their hero, staying to watch the drama of his departure. When this does not happen, the wind is taken out of his sails to some extent, and he persists in his determination to quit at least partly to avoid looking foolish by retracting. He is obviously very concerned with the impression he makes, remarking that "once you begin a gesture it's fatal not to go through with it." He even says that he is glad this happened in summer, since having to fumble for his coat and galoshes, as he would in winter, would have ruined the effect of his exit.

Before his departure, Sammy talks about the monotony of his work at the grocery store. Although he quits impulsively, this may well be a factor in the background. His motivation, therefore seems to be composed of boredom, a sense of frustration that he is missing out on life (awakened by his thoughts about the girls), annoyance at Lengel's treatment of the girls, and desires to impress them and appear heroic. Once he has made his impulsive announcement, he persists because he is afraid of looking foolish if he backs down.

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